Opinion

Frederick County Sheriff’s brother Gary Jenkins says people with Down syndrome should be kept at home

h down syndrome

The nation was outraged after a man with Down syndrome, Ethan Saylor, was killed at the hands of three off-duty police officers over an unpaid movie ticket. In 2013, Saylor went with an aide to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty. He enjoyed the movie so much that he wanted to see it again, but hadn’t purchased a second ticket. The manager asked him to leave, but he refused, so he got the three officers involved. The aide pleaded with them to leave Saylor alone, that the situation was being handled, and that he would become angry if they touched him.

Saylor’s mother was on her way to the theater with more money to purchase a second ticket for him. The officers ignored all of this information and instead, entered the theater and confronted Saylor. In the struggle to forcibly remove Saylor from the theater, the officers handcuffed him and forced him onto his stomach. Witnesses reported seeing their boots and knees on his back and neck.

Saylor died from positional asphyxia, and his death was ruled a homicide. He had bruises and scratches all over him, a crushed larynx, and his lungs were filled with blood. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office investigated themselves and found that they didn’t do anything wrong.

His last words were him crying for his mother.

Since then, Patti Saylor, Ethan’s mother, has been campaigning for better training for police officers in dealing with people who have disabilities. But according to Gary Jenkins, brother of Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, this is the wrong solution. No, to him, people with Down syndrome should just be kept at home.

It is unfortunate that Ethan Saylor lost his life in a preventable situation. With that said, I for one am tired of hearing all the theories of who is to blame, especially the security officers (who happened to be off-duty deputies). According to The Frederick News-Post, all witnesses conveyed that security did not act inappropriately or mistreat him in any way.

Some people tried to blame the movie theatre staff, saying they could have let him stay for free. These are mostly young adults doing what they are told and afraid to lose their jobs. Patti Saylor blames Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, again misplaced.

I would suggest Patti go to the bathroom, look in the mirror and face the blame. What was she doing that night so important she could not accompany Ethan to the movie? I know we all need time alone, however, she should have known better to send him out in public with someone ill-equipped to handle him. If she couldn’t go, keep him home in his comfort zone or send him with someone properly trained. According to The News-Post, she directed his care provider to leave him alone in the theater, another mistake for which she is to blame. Her poor choices are to blame and she should accept responsibility.

Then we have Karl Bickel show up with a political agenda and criticize our sheriff over the incident, while he has no clue what happened as he did not bother to read the report, according to an article in the Aug. 28 News-Post (“Saylor endorses Bickel”). Here again, he is trying to capitalize on the death of a young man. Disgusting and shameful behavior; certainly not what I would expect from a candidate for sheriff.

This is an incredibly offensive statement, not to mention a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. To start with, there is nothing to indicate that the aide with Saylor that night could not adequately do her job; rather, she pleaded with theater staff and the officers to listen to her, but they repeatedly refused. Saylor had gone to this theater almost every week before his death without incident. Police officers ignored the warnings of the aide, were not punished, and continue working today. Officers and theater staff kept the aide away from Saylor, and he died in an altercation where three officers physically confronted a man with Down syndrome who died crying for his mother — yet Jenkins wants to claim that it’s Patti Saylor’s fault? That people with Down syndrome should just be kept at home, lest they inconvenience the “normal” people out there?

This attitude, that people with disabilities should be kept hidden away because they’re too much of a pain for people like Jenkins, is what people with disabilities and their families have been fighting for decades now. Advances have been made, but there are also major setbacks — like the fact that three police officers could kill Ethan Saylor without any repercussions, or that the brother of the sheriff could openly blame Saylor’s mother and state that people with Down syndrome should just be kept at home.

This type of thing, it’s dehumanizing. It puts people with Down syndrome at about the level of a dog, something that’s cute and cuddly when you feel like playing with it, but only appropriate to be seen in certain situations. It is an incredible lack of compassion and understanding, and a complete unwillingness to respect the inherent human dignity that each person possesses, even people with Down syndrome. The problem is not people with disabilities; it is not their loved ones who refuse to keep them locked up at home like animals in a cage. The problem is people like Gary Jenkins, who publicly seek to rob people with disabilities of their humanity, because it’s just too much work for him to attempt a little understanding and patience towards people that happen to be different.

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